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Stars debate 3-on-3 play

Sunday, 01.27.2008 / 4:00 PM / 2008 NHL All-Star Game

By Shawn P. Roarke - Senior Managing Editor

David Perron of the St. Louis Blues is a big fan of the 3-on-3 play in Saturday night's YoungStars game.
The new 3-on-3 format used in the YoungStars portion of Saturday’s Dodge NHL Super Skills competition was a big hit among the players, both those involved in the game and the veterans who were just interested spectators.

“I think everybody wishes we had six minutes more, like a third period,” St. Louis forward David Perron said after the two-period, 12-minute game was over. “Everybody was getting warmed up. Everybody was happy about how it worked out, and we had lots of fun out there.”

The Eastern Conference had just a little more fun, as the East earned an entertaining 7-6 victory.

“I think that’s what the fans expect at an All-Star Game,” Perron continued. “It seemed like we had good chemistry, even though we didn’t know each other. I think the skill level of some of the young guys, like (Patrick) Kane, were spectacular.”

Nashville’s Jason Arnott watched part of the YoungStars Game while the veterans relaxed in the dressing room. He and his Western Conference teammates were impressed.

“It was entertaining,” Arnott admitted. “To see those kids wheel around with it was entertaining, and it was entertaining for the fans – lots of goals, lots of great plays and good moves. I don’t know how much they liked it, but it was good for the fans.”

The young guns loved it. What’s not to like about lots of open ice, two-line passes and a plethora of breakaways, including more than a few 2-on-0s.

Yet despite the wide-open nature of the exhibition, more than a few players admitted that they wouldn’t mind seeing the 3-on-3 format used as a tiebreaker in place of the shootout. In other words, a tie game would go to 4-on-4 as it does now. If it is still tied after five minutes, the teams would play five minutes of 3-on-3. Judging by Saturday’s open ice and offensive fireworks, it is unlikely that five minutes would pass without the red light going off.

St. Louis goaltender Manny Legace, who played in the YoungStars game and was on the receiving end of several breakaways, was still all for the idea of a 3-on-3 tiebreaker.

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“I think it’s very viable. I would rather do that than a shootout,” said Legace. “I’d rather win as a team and lose as a team; that’s my nature. It’s a team game. Maybe 3-on-3 and then a shootout to get that extra point. At least you would lose as a team. It’s frustrating to lose in a skills competition. You get a great goalie against you and he’s stopping everything, it gets frustrating after a while. At least 3-on-3, it gives you another opportunity.”

Arnott also said the plan was intriguing.

“I think the players would like that more,” he said. “You know, it is a team sport and you want to end up winning as a team. It’s not necessarily that you don’t with the shootout but shootouts are a little different. I think they are more for the fans than the players.”

Eastern Conference coach John Paddock of the Ottawa Senators wasn’t sold by the entertaining display turned in by his charges. He feels it’s ideal in the world of all-star exhibitions, but has no place in competitive games where points are on the line.

“I would never give my sport that,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it was gimmicky, it’s just too easy to score. I don’t think you would ever get to a shootout. I’ve come to appreciate the shootout, knowing that the fans like it. I’m not big on going to the shootout, but I hope we don’t do any more changes to our game.

“It just take’s one pass and your caught. If you have a goaltender like (Rick) DiPietro, it would be easier for him to make a save and just fire it (out of the zone). It would be entertaining, but I’m just a little too traditional for that.”

A promising debut – The Breakaway Challenge, a trick-shot competition that closed the SuperSkills competition Saturday night, was met with favorable reviews despite the fact that it was not the offensive showcase many believed it would be.

“We were watching it in the room with the young guys (YoungStars) and that was pretty cool,” said David Perron of the St. Louis Blues. “Some of the guys made some nice moves.”

Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin made the nicest moves in advancing to the final. Ovechkin won, despite not scoring a goal in either try, because of the degree of difficulty in his attempts.

On his first try, he did a modified lacrosse move before throwing the puck in the air and trying to hit it on goal with a baseball swing. In his second attempt, he added a 360-degree spin before trying to bat the puck on net.

Actor Taylor Kitsch, TV commentator Bill Clement, former NHL player Scott Mellanby and former NBA player Dominique Wilkins were impressed with the moves of Alex Ovechkinin the Breakaway Challenge.
Watch the Breakaway Challenge

Alex Ovechkin gave a good show. But to make a move like that, it’s hard to score,” said Vincent Lecavalier, the Eastern Conference captain. “Hats off to these guys. I didn’t want to be in their shoes tonight with all that pressure. I think making the move and putting it on the net is tough, especially when you put it in the air.

“It’s really hard. You saw it; it’s just a really hard thing to do. I think people just wanted to see how creative the guys were and I think it worked. I think Ovechkin stole the show.”

Perron said that moves like Ovechkin’s will become more commonplace now that the players have been exposed to what the Breakaway Challenge is all about.

“It’s a new thing, and I think every year it will be better,” Perron said. “In three years it will be one of the best (events) because guys didn’t really know how it worked and now they see what it is like.

“I talked to Getzlaf before and he didn’t have any move in his mind and he just thought it up on the ice watching the other guys. Like I said, in a few years it will pretty cool to watch that.”

The presence of goalies also added a degree of difficulty to the proceedings. San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov ruined one attempt by poke-checking the puck of a player’s stick.

Manny Legace had a creative solution for that dilemma, though.

“They should try to get a celebrity goalie; that would make it more interesting,” he said. “Try to get Keanu Reeves or someone like that who’s a goalie and have them come down and then try to make these shots and if he stops them, he’s all fired up. Put him on a mic and he’ll be all fired up and you can talk to him the whole time. I think that would be great.”

Big shoes to fill – St. Louis goalie Manny Legace wore a mic provided by Versus and provided running commentary about the YoungStars game while playing goal for the Western Conference in the contest.

It was certainly a case of multi-tasking, but it wasn’t unprecedented. Last year, Dallas goalie Marty Turco stole the show with his miked-up performance, firing off one-liners with the Versus broadcast crew as he performed before the home crowd.

Legace was just as funny this time around. So, are goalies the funniest players in the League?

“No, we’re just full of crap,” Legace laughed. “They told me I had big shoes to fill and I’m trying. Marty loves to talk and he’s a great guy. He’s funny and he loves to talk. He’s got the one-liners. I don’t have the vocabulary to stick up to him, but I try.”

Saturday night, Legace certainly succeeded in that quest.

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